Digitization is a low-cost solution for both documenting and providing access to the samplers in your collection.  Nick Graham, the lead instructor for C2C’s digitization workshops, heads up the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, based at UNC Chapel Hill.  The Digital Heritage Center’s latest project is an online exhibition of samplers from various collections across the state.  Currently, examples come from three institutions: UNC’s Carolina Collection, Greensboro College, and Orange County Historical Museum.

Don’t let your sampler collection go unrepresented.  Digitizing your artifacts is a free service the Digital Heritage Center provides to all NC cultural heritage institutions.  If you can arrange transport for your samplers, Nick and his staff will do the rest and include your treasures on the sampler exhibiton site.  Or, if your pieces have already been digitized, you can submit photographs of your collection.

from the Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill

These significant glimpses into female education and family life, typically date from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  Most samplers include the name of the girl, usually aged 10-12, who stitched the work.  Alphabets, rhymes, and family or school information also frequently appear on samplers.  Two examples in the online exhibit (one dated 1812 and the other dated 1838) contain the following poem:  “Jesus permit thy gracious name to stand/ As the first effort of an infant hand/ And while her fingers o’re the canvas move/ Engage her tender heart to seek thy love.”

Samplers are especially vulnerable to damage because the makers and families often hung them as decoration, consequently exposing them to light over many years.  Also, the backing boards of the original frames are often acidic and have stained the fibers overtime.  Current institutional stewards must preserve them, despite embrittlement and fading from past conditions.  Unfortunately, many of these fragile artifacts are on exhibition and continue to be exposed to light. 

Hope Plantation's Roanoke-Chowan Heritage Center

Reproduction is an important solution that allows continued access to these documentary artifacts.  Historic Hope Plantation is one small institution that has digitized its sampler collection in order to both preserve and exhibit these works.  The digital images have been printed on high quality paper, framed, and displayed in the central hallway of the site’s Roanoke-Chowan Heritage Center.  This location allows visitors to the institution to view the reproductions closely.  Yet it is difficult for many to notice that the framed works are not the originals, which are now safely stored in acid free boxes.  Salem College’s archives has begun a similar project and plans to include images of their samplers in the NC Digital Heritage Center’s online exhibition.  The more institutions and regions that site can represent, the richer it can be as a research resource.


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on November 17, 2011, in collections access, collections care, collections management, Connecting to Collections, Exhibitions, historic houses, workshops and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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